Any day, week, month, year now... Japan's adjusted trade balance missed expectations by the most since October 2013 (back over a JPY1 trillion deficit) as the QQE-ing, j-curve-any-minute-now nation awaits the arrival of the competitive pickup for the 40th month in a row. Exports beat expectations (which we are sure will be the headline crowed about by all) but imports surged by 2.3% (against expectations of a 1.5% drop). It appears you single-handedly devalue yourself to prosperity in an interconnected world after all - whocouldanode? As we said before, "Monetary debasement does NOT result in an economic recovery, because no nation can force another to pay for its recovery."
Nobody really believes the official narrative that the "recovery" is powering the remarkable strength of U.S. stocks, bonds and real estate. The real Main Street economy is quite obviously struggling, outside the energy and Federal government sectors, and so many see the Federal Reserve's free money for financiers (a.k.a. quantitative easing) bond and mortgage-buying programs as the real reason bond yields have declined and stocks have soared. This leads us to wonder if capital inflows into the U.S. aren't a largely overlooked driver of rising U.S. markets.
At this point, one has to wonder, just what is the point of all the Central Banks’ activities? The QE efforts in the US and Japan (two of the biggest in history) haven’t really generated jobs or GDP growth… so just what ARE they doing?
More than 7,000 troops from China, Russia and four central Asia countries have gathered in Inner Mongolia for their biggest joint drills "to fight terrorists," but as one analyst notes, "it is kind of rare to have an anti-terrorist mission which uses battle tanks." Furthermore, as part of a drill:
*RUSSIA TESTING S-300, S-400 SYSTEMS IN ASTRAKHAN REGION: RIA
So, surface-to-air missile tests? Not very "de-escalation"-y. Perhaps this statement is a clue, "we are trying to exercise together to coordinate our troops to meet any potential eventuality."
A quick reminder of how geopolitics governs markets: on Friday, the market plunged 0.005% over fears Ukraine and Russia may be about to go at it all out after a fake report Ukraine shelled a Russian military convoy. On Monday, the same "market" soared just under 1% as the news that had caused the "crash" was refuted. That has been the dominant rinse, repeat theme for the past month and will continue to be well after Yellen's Friday speech at Jackson Hole (although one does wonder why she is not speaking on Wednesday when the symposium begins). Not surprisingly, with only modest re-escalation news overnight (that Russia is preparing further retaliatory sanctions against the West), which is simply "pent up de-escalation" in the eyes of Keynesian algos, futures are again up a solid 0.2% and rising, and the way the rampy USDJPY is being manipulated before its pre-market blast off, we may well see the S&P hit 1980, if not a new all time high before 9:30am, let alone during today's cash session. In any event, whatever you do, don't you dare suggest that algos should care one bit about Ferguson and its implications for US society.
If the West continues its "destructive sanction policy," Kremlin spokesman Dmirty Peskov said Moscow will deploy additional 'protective' measures. Peskov warned, "we have said several times that Russia is not a fan of speaking in terms of sanctions and has not been an initiator. But if our partners continue their non-constructive and even destructive practices, then additional measures will be developed." Of course, this escalation is merely pent-up de-escalation and therefore good reason to buy US stocks, except bonds seem a little concerned this morning that Putin's blowback will dent global growth further.
There is no reason rooted in the real world for today’s frothy stock market rally. In every single region of the planet, the post-crisis, central bank fueled expansion cycle - tepid as it was in the global aggregate - is faltering badly. So with the global expansion cycle faltering, profit ratios at all-time highs and PE multiples in the nose-bleed section of history - nearly 20X reported earnings for the S&P 500 - there is only one thing left for the Wall Street robots to do. Namely, vigorously buy the latest dip because the Fed has yet another new sheriff heading for Jackson Hole purportedly bearing dovish tidings. To wit, after 6 years of pinning money market rates to the economic floorboard at zero, Janet Yellen espies an economy still encumbered by “slack”, and will therefore be inclined to keep Wall Street gamblers in free money for a while longer.
The main event of the week will be Yellen's long awaited speech at the Jackson Hole 3-day symposium taking place August 21-23. The theme of this year's symposium is entitled "Re-Evaluating Labour Market Dynamics" and Yellen is expected to deliver her keynote address on Friday morning US time. Consensus is that she will likely highlight that the alternative measures of labour market slack in evaluating the ongoing significant under-utilisation of labour resources (eg, duration of employment, quit rate in JOLTS data) have yet to normalise relative to 2002-2007 levels. Any sound bite that touches on the debate of cyclical versus structural drivers of labour force participation will also be closely followed. Unlike some of the previous Jackson Hole symposiums, this is probably not one that will serve as a precursor of any monetary policy changes but the tone of Yellen's speech may still have a market impact and set the mood for busier times ahead in September.
Non-ideologically laden overview of the key issues shaping the investment climate in the week ahead.
Why can't, or rather won't, the Fed let the bubble market collapse once again? Simple - as the following chart shows, the illusion of wealth is now most critical when preserving the myth of the welfare state: some 50% of all US pension fund assets are invested in stocks and only 20% in Treasurys.
The ragged Keynesian excuse that all will be well in Japan once the jump in the consumption tax from 5% to 8% is fully digested is false. Here’s the problem: this is just the beginning of an endless march upwards of Japan’s tax burden to close the yawning fiscal gap left after the current round of tax increases, and to finance its growing retirement colony. There is no possibility that Abenomics will result in “escape velocity” Japan style and that Japan can grow its way out of it enormous fiscal trap. Instead, nominal and real growth will remain pinned to the flatline owing to peak debt, soaring retirements, a shrinking tax base and a tax burden which will rise as far as the eye can see. Call that a Keynesian dystopia. It is a cautionary tale for our times. And Japan, unfortunately, is just patient zero.
"We seem to be headed for such a fateful turn. We are approaching a serious turning point that may reshape the world as did 1932 following the economic trend of the Great Depression. We are witnessing the collapse of democracy."
Back in the early 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement was one of the hottest political issues in the country. When he was running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton promised that NAFTA would result in an increase in the number of high quality jobs for Americans that it would reduce illegal immigration. Ross Perot warned that just the opposite would happen. He warned that if NAFTA was implemented there would be a "giant sucking sound" as thousands of businesses and millions of jobs left this country. Most Americans chose to believe Bill Clinton. Well, it is 20 years later and it turns out that Perot was right and Clinton was dead wrong. But now history is repeating itself, and most Americans don't even realize that it is happening. As you will read about at the end of this article, Barack Obama has been negotiating a secret trade treaty that is being called "NAFTA on steroids", and if Congress adopts it we could lose millions more good paying jobs.
There is a standard view of energy and the economy that can briefly be summarized as follows: Economic growth can continue forever; we will learn to use less energy supplies; energy prices will rise; and the world will adapt. The following view of how energy and the economy fit together is very different - it is based on the principle of reaching limits in a finite world.
The fundamental mistake is to think in terms of a low yield telling you anything about the economy, as it is price that you should be focusing on.